Poetry and music performances mark First World War centenary


The University of Leeds will welcome former Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion today for a poignant concert marking the centenary of the First World War.

Titled Anthem for Doomed Youth, the event will see Sir Andrew and pianist Ian Buckle create a rich tapestry of words and music at the public event, held in the Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall on Wednesday 22 October at 7.30pm.

The concert will interweave Sir Andrew’s readings from his own work as well as poems reflecting on the futility of war by Wilfred Owen and Geoffrey Hill – a former University of Leeds Professor of English Literature – with Mr Buckle’s performance of various works, including Variations by Anton Webern, who was killed by accident just days after the Second World War ended.

Sir Andrew said: “We have devised this evening to commemorate those caught up in the tragedies of all wars – but in particular the First World War. It's our hope that the music and words we have chosen will reinforce and resonate with one another.”

Earlier on the same evening, Sir Andrew will read at a rededication ceremony for the University’s Brotherton War Memorial.  

The names of 25 men from Leeds who served in the Great War were added to the memorial in August. The stories of the men, who all had connections to the University, were uncovered during preliminary research for a new exhibition that also opens in Parkinson Court on 22 October.

The exhibition, University of Leeds: Legacies of the First World War, tells the stories of some of those commemorated by the memorial, as well as setting out various aspects of life at the University during the conflict.

The exhibition and the rededication service form part of the University’s Legacies of War centenary project.

Professor Alison Fell, who leads the project, said: “The diversity of University staff and students’ responses to the war that we have uncovered reflects the extent to which few people remained untouched by the conflict and its legacies.

“The rededication, exhibition and concert on 22 October will provide a series of important opportunities for people to both learn about and reflect on the centenary of the First World War.” 

Sir Andrew will also lead a poetry workshop for local A-level students that afternoon at Leeds Central Library.

  • Tickets for the concert, which is part of the University of Leeds International Concert Series, are £20 (£18 if booked in advance; free for students and under 16s). To buy, and for full details and a downloadable concert programme, see http://www.concerts.leeds.ac.uk/, call 0113 343 2583 or email concerts@leeds.ac.uk.
  • A look at how the First World War was memorialised is included in a new free online course created by the University of Leeds, in conjunction with the BBC. World War One: Changing Faces of Heroism, a three week course, begins on Monday 27 October. Visit www.futurelearn.com/courses/ww1-heroism to find out more, view a trailer or sign up.

Further information

  • Sir Andrew, who was Poet Laureate for ten years from 1999, is President of the Campaign to Protect Rural England and co-founder of The Poetry Archive. His book, The Customs House, is a stunning collection that opens with a sequence of war poems, Laurels and Donkeys, drawing on soldiers' experiences from the First and Second World Wars, through to recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Ian Buckle is a teacher of piano and an accompanist in the University’s School of Music. He works with several orchestras as a concerto soloist.
  • Interviews can be arranged through the University of Leeds press office. Please contact Gareth Dant on 0113 343 3996 or g.j.dant@leeds.ac.uk.
  • Images of Sir Andrew are available on request.
  • Please note that attendance at the Brotherton War Memorial rededication service is by invitation only due to limited seating.